Everyone, my family and I will be participating in the IOCDF’s One Million Steps For OCD Awareness event in June. The IOCDF does great work, so please consider donating – they’ll really appreciate anything you can contribute.
Here’s the letter I wrote for the IOCDF, explaining how the disorder has affected my family, and how the organization helps sufferers:
“OCD is the pathological intolerance of risk, however minute, and the surrender to protective ritual, however unbearable…As an OCD sufferer, I did any number of asinine, irrational things not because they would protect me, but because I thought they might,and I’d be darned if the one night I failed to properly pray the lord my soul to keep was the night I died before I woke….”
Not a lot of people get this about OCD. People associate repetitive behaviors such as hand-washing and counting with the disorder. In reality, most of the action is actually happening inside the sufferer’s head – the physical (or mental) rituals are a way to ward off the ceaseless, cyclical thoughts that torture the sufferer.
I’ve suffered from OCD for as long as I can remember, but wasn’t diagnosed until I was twenty. My particular variant of the disorder involves uncontrollable, intimately disturbing intrusive thoughts, with no visible compulsions. OCD severely impacted my childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood. It wasn’t until I was properly diagnosed and received appropriate treatment at the McLean Hospital OCDI and The Anxiety & OCD Treatment Center of Philadelphia that I found myself on a path of learning to manage this insidious disorder.
The OCD Foundation is doing critical work on the frontlines of the battle against OCD using the most powerful weapon we have: education, both to raise public awareness and to instruct treatment providers in diagnosis and care. Sadly, there are still many areas of this country where no one is trained in the appropriate treatment modalities for addressing OCD; there are many areas of this world where clinicians have little familiarity with its diagnostic definition. I’ve met friends in treatment who battled undiagnosed OCD, not just through college like I did, but for most of their adult lives. The IOCDF is working to change that, and I’m walking to help them out.
Please consider making even a small donation – the website is simple to use, fast, and totally secure. If you’d like to create your own page and join my team, Team Triggered, I’d be happy to have you. Also, if it isn’t too much trouble, please post this on Facebook and pass it along to anyone who you think might want to donate.
Thanks for your support. I really appreciate it.
Another Tumblr post that kinda blew up past its original perimeters, so I decided to repost:
I got a txt msg from my younger sister in Chicago asking if I’d seen the last episode of Girls. I hadn’t – I like Girls, but it’s also uncomfortably accurate in it’s depiction of self-absorbed privileged kids in their late twenties, and I have limited patience for television that reminds me why I hate myself.
But sister told me this episode was about OCD, and I figured, okay, this one I should probably watch.
Visualize the majestic giraffe, hierarch of the serengeti, elegant yet absurd; confident yet precarious. Imagine it reaching out for delicious acacia leaves with it’s ink-black tongue.
And then imagine, if you will, the giraffe suddenly revealing it is not a noble beast but a robot in disguise, a heroic transformer dedicated to the eradication of evil on earth. It begins its transformation, gears grind and pistons pump, and the panels of spotted hide unfold to reveal the robot warrior within.
And yet… well, the end result is… not elegant. Bony giraffe legs hang over the shoulders, the spine contorts, the guy just sort of has… giraffe parts, everywhere, just these gangly-ass limbs splayed out all over the place, because they’re way too long and there’s really nowhere to put them.
Completely unrelated: I’ve started doing yoga to help manage my anxiety, and have chronicled my misadventures at Psychology Today. The imagery above may or may not assist you in visualizing this as you enjoy the article.
There’s a new Psych Today column up. It’s kinda information-will-set-you-free in tone and I hope you’ll forgive me for my techno-utopianism; I think electronic communication has a lot of potential for increasing awareness of mental illness, but obviously there’s a lot of misinformation out there and a laptop is no substitute for a trained mental health practitioner.
Also, note the exceptionally creative image accompanying the article! Finding good images for cheap is tough, guys.
I’ve posted a new column about scrupulosity, or religious OCD, over at Psychology Today. I want to warn everyone in advance that this one’s much heavier than the other stuff I’ve written over the past few weeks, and you may wish to avoid if you struggle with religious obsessions yourself and don’t want to be triggered.
New excerpt from the book available on Psych Today. This tries to walk the reader through the reasoning of obsessive-compulsive thinking – I’ve heard from some sufferers that it’s triggered their symptoms, so be aware.
I need to make one of my at this point customary apologies for the dearth of content in this space. But the good news is that I’ve been working on a plethora of horrifically-personal, anxiety-inducing content for your enjoyment. It’s either feast or famine here at Also Sprach Fletchathustra.
Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to appear on the Fox 25 Boston morning show. It’s a quick segment, but does a good job of explaining some of the underlying principles of OCD. And if you’ve read the book and developed an image of me as some slick sonofagun, here’s your opportunity to observe my stiff demeanor and robotic bass monotone firsthand.
And on Friday I was lucky enough to appear on Philadelphia’s Radio Times. I appeared with Dr. Jon Grayson, author of the seminal Freedom from Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and was interviewed by the wonderful Maiken Scott. I’m really happy with how this program turned out – we tackle OCD from personal and clinical perspectives, and it seems like we reached a number of parents who had their own stories to share. Trigger warning for suicide and stuff like that.
Finally, I want to point any visitors in the direction of The Disappointments, a sketch comedy group formed by my friends from Swarthmore and I. We had a great show at the college last night, hosted by our sketch comedy alma mater Boy Meets Tractor for their annual Comedy Weekend, so keep an eye on our site – fingers crossed, we’ll have the new material up soon.
So that’s it for now! Assuming trends related to my frequency of posting continue, please check back in six months for a twelve simultaneous posts and a novella, and then in ten years for a 2000-page prose poem retelling of The Odyssey.
This is highly unexpected, but I submitted an article on OCD to the Huffington Post earlier this week, and apparently they have pretty quick turnaround time on publication.
You can check out the article here. It’s a basic description of OCD written for the layman, combined with some jokes, because that’s how we roll around here.
I struggled with what to name this article: “Top Songs About Mental Illness”? or “Best”? But those are both very subjective terms, and some of these songs aren’t even explicitly about mental illness, and really can anything about mental illness be considered “top?” So I won’t claim this list is comprehensive. But for what it’s worth, here’s a list of songs by popular artists that make me wince, with sympathy and profound discomfort, every time I hear them.
TRIGGER WARNING FOR SUICIDE LIKE WHOA
You may have heard of this Cee-Lo Green – as a matter of fact, he wrote another song about mental disability a few years back that was something of a modest success. But in true hipster fashion, I’d like to instead call out this deep cut from Gnarls Barkley’s debut album, St. Elsewhere. Green’s voice has a hoarse, plaintive quantity on this track, which juxtaposes delicate flamenco guitar with a pummeling drumline. He sounds overwhelmed, both by the music and the song’s emotional content, even before the track deteriorates into record scratches and a dissonant piano melody that sounds almost like it could have come from…
…these guys. You probably know what happened to Ian Curtis: if you don’t, I can’t tell you anything about him that his music doesn’t. This track is cyclical: it accelerates, the verse begins, Curtis gives us a moment of hope (“Just for one moment, I thought I’d found my way”) before crushing it (“Destiny unfolded, I watched it slip away”). And then back to that awesome (both in the “kickass” and “inspiring the fear of God” senses of the word”) bassline. The form complements the emotional content: anyone who has suffered from depression will recognize the downward spiral, interrupted by moments of desperate hope before the darkness returns.
But enough suicide! (That is a lie. We will be returning to suicide shortly). X-Ray Spex tackles your favorite anxiety disorder and mine (by which I mean the one that almost killed me) on this almost-title track from their all-time classic record, “Germfree Adolescence.” It’s a love song, at least technically, but the romance is highly unorthodox: “Your deodorant smells nice” is not a common pick-up line in pop music. “Blow disinfectant in her eyes” is not a conventional demonstration of affection. The synth riff is charming but soon becomes maddeningly repetitive; Poly Styrene’s vocals, superficially sweet, become increasingly cracked and desperate as the song proceeds. The song botches the pathology behind OCD, and disappointingly focuses on contamination, which is only one shade of an entire horrible rainbow of OCD symptoms. But it captures the experience of the disorder extremely well.
Not to be confused with the actual suicide hotline, which is probably a better resource if you find yourself considering taking your own life. This song isn’t completely free of the mentalist, “only rich people suffer mental illness” attitude I complained about in Das Racist’s “Puerto Rican Cousins” a while back. In Poetic’s verse he rhymes: “Hey little rich kid what’s your beef? Come and tell the grim reaper all of your grief.” But then he immediately challenges that by complicating the listener’s identity: “Maybe you’re a bastard child, you think / Your mom and dad are white but you’re dark as ink.” Poetic was apparently trying to comment on hip-hop’s increasing commercialization, and its simultaneous appeal to privileged white kids, but at the same time he touches on the consuming economic and racial guilt that (in my experience) accompanies depression.
The other verses are just as brutal. Frukwan describes a figure who, in a Looney Tunes-esque gauntlet of violence, tries to kill himself again and again without succeeding. RZA (as the Rzarector) urges the listener to “[c]omit suicide and I’ll bring you back to life”, much as depression promises that killing yourself will bring stop your pain; he then presents a gory sequence of eager sacrifices, none of whom are subsequently rzarected. Rather than offer empty promises that life gets better, the Gravediggaz shock the listener with graphic descriptions of self-inflicted violence, and then soberly observe how these attempts didn’t fix anything. And better than any other song I’ve heard, their rhymes capture the incessant, mocking self-loathing of depression.
NEXT TIME: Eating disorders, self-injury, and the best worst song about madness that isn’t “They’re Coming to Take Me Away.”
So I was directed to this post by Jenny Lawson at Bloggess. It’s in two parts: a brief essay written in the nastiest depths of the author’s periodic depression, and then a reflection written after she recovered. I have OCD, but my particular brand of anxiety sometimes takes on the rancid bouquet of depression, and Lawson’s post resonated with me. Suffice to say it is extraordinary challenging to get through ordinary tasks and responsibilities while trying to manage depressive, self-destructive thoughts. Everyday mistakes, like arriving at work a few minutes late, become moral failures so atrocious they can only be rectified by suicide. You pray no one criticizes you, even if their complaints are reasonable and well intentioned, because any disapproval becomes a screaming indictment of your basic value as a human being. And if your slip-up occurred because of your internal struggle: expect despise yourself all the more, to be swept up in a maelstrom of self-loathing where your condition is a sign of weakness and cause for self-recrimination that worsens your condition.